The Wearable Springtime

How We Welcome Seasonal Change






In Japanese, there is an expression that describes the weather in early March as always being a combination of three chilly days followed by four warm days. Regardless of the fluctuating weather, once the Japanese see the plum blossom begins to bloom in March, they would put all their winter clothes away. Even if the temperature is still lower than ten-degree Celsius, you can rarely see people wearing a scarf or beanie. Everyone instantly switches from the dark color outfits to lighter colors like khaki or light yellow. Chilled by a cold breeze, their bodies in the thin windbreakers would be shaking, while not losing the spring-like warm smile on their face. People are so eager to welcome the seasonal change; only with a slight hint of spring coming, they already cannot wait to dive into the tenderness of the beautiful season.  

The first time I recognized the eagerness people have towards seasonal change was when I was in Berlin a few years ago. It was the time transitioning from spring to summer where it can still get a little chilly sometimes. The outdoor cafes would get so packed as soon as the sun shined. In the warmer days, people were already wearing their short sleeves, when it got a bit colder, they would wrap themselves in blankets provided by the cafes. The warmth and chilliness are both signs of the arrival of summer that no one wants to miss out.

We put on different outfits that match the season, and we see the season when looking at others’ outfits. The Japanese Haiku always begins with a line that addresses the season. One of the ways to talk about seasons in Haiku is to use clothes as a symbol. Generally speaking, there are spring outfits, summer outfits and so on. To make it more precise, summer is when you wear linen, white shirt, Yukata, or even white suit vest that Masaoka Shiki once mentioned in his Haiku; when it comes to winter, we would think of wool hat and snow boots. Yukata reminds one of the riverside terrace and firework, where snow boots are always connected to the image of a vast piece of whiteness. Every piece of clothing in the wardrobe is actually part of the bigger outside world.

Now as I come to think of it, it is already mid-March, I am such a mismatch to the blooming plum blossom with my wool sweater, winter jacket, and cashmere scarf. I guess the Japanese would see me as someone who is too insensitive to enjoy the change in nature.